Triticum aestivum (wheatgrass) is typically sold in tablet, liquid or capsule form as a dietary supplement. It is also frequently employed in juicing, as an addition to smoothies or used to make tea. It belongs to the family Poaceae and is the very young grass, between seven to eleven inches in height, of the wheat plant. The plant grows in temperate regions of most parts of the world. Many people grow their own wheatgrass by placing wheat seeds in water and harvesting the leaves. The grass can be grown indoors or outside.
Wheatgrass has a somewhat sweet flavor.
History of Wheatgrass
Use of wheatgrass can be traced all the way back to the ancient Egyptians over 5000 years ago, and maybe even to Mesopotamian civilizations. It is claimed that Egyptians believed the young wheat blades were good for their health. They even held the blades to be sacred.
In the early 1900s, Edmund Bordeaux Szekely came across an ancient biblical manuscript that he translated. He was so captivated with what he read that he formed the Biogenic Society and published and sold the translated works in the form of small books called “The Essene Gospel of Peace.” The main concept in the first book was “don’t kill your food by cooking it”. The main teaching of the fourth book was “all grasses are good for man and wheatgrass is the perfect food”.
However, it wasn’t until 1930s that the Western World discovered the potential benefits of wheatgrass. Charles F. Schnabel carried out experiments in an effort to popularize the plant and by the 1940s marketed cans of Schnabel’s powdered grass in U.S and Canada.
Ann Wigmore was a Lithuanian who moved to the U.S. She had strong convictions in nature’s healing powers, in particular wheatgrass. Her beliefs came from the interpretation of the Bible and observing dogs and cats who ate grass when ill. She claimed that a wheatgrass diet had the power to heal various illnesses.
Health Benefits of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is highly valued by advocates of green foods as a natural source of nutrients. Its juice is made up of seventy percent chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is frequently called the blood of plants, and is responsible for capturing sunlight. It is also very similar in structure to the haemoglobin in human red blood cells.
Inside the body, chlorophyll creates an unfavourable environment for the growth of harmful bacteria. It can therefore help the body resist disease. Proponents of wheatgrass think of it as a complete food on its own. There are even claims that one pound of fresh wheatgrass is nutritionally equal to 23 pounds of vegetables.
Wheatgrass juice can be used as complementary cancer therapy.
The juice helps the body to build red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen to all parts of the body. The increased oxygenation helps the body to counter the effects of carbon monoxide and smog and enhance the body’s endurance when exercising.
Wheatgrass is also accredited with helping to dispel lung scars and remove toxins from the body. It purifies the blood and increases the levels of enzymes in cells thereby rejuvenating the body.
Wheatgrass has to be juiced for consumption because its fibrous and woody components can’t be digested by humans.
Nutritional Value Wheatgrass
A one ounce serving of wheatgrass has no fat, or sugar and it delivers only seven calories. Wheatgrass contains 20% protein while meat has 17% and eggs 12%. The protein exists as polypeptides, which are short chains that can be deposited into the bloodstream easily. Proteins are essential building blocks of the body needed for repair and regeneration of muscle and tissue. It also contains enzymes that rid the body of toxins ingested with the food we eat. Additionally, it is a rich source of chlorophyll that helps reduce inflammation in all parts of the body.
Wheatgrass provides plenty of dietary fibre and protein. Additionally it proves to be a good source of vitamin A, C, E and K. It also supplies thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Wheatgrass is loaded with amino acids in addition to the essential phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine.
Uses of Wheatgrass
The best way to use wheatgrass is to juice it. Before juicing, ensure that the blades are fresh, free of mould and there are no yellowing sprouts as they spoil the flavour. Juicing of the wheat grass is best carried out in single or twin gear juicers, not centrifugal juicers or blenders. This is because centrifugal juicers and blenders cause too much oxidization of the chlorophyll. The juice should not be prepared too far ahead of time for the same reason. It is best if it is consumed within half an hour of juicing to gain maximum benefits.
The other option for juicing is to use a mortar and pestle and extract juice manually. Cut the leaves into small pieces and place in pestle, then add a little water and grind the leaves into a paste. Pass the juice through muslin or cheesecloth to strain.
One to two ounces of juice are sufficient if you wish to be healthier or just need more energy. Four to six ounces a day are needed to overcome a disease. Start with one ounce daily and build up slowly to the desired quantity. It is best not to mix the juice with other juices and it should be consumed on an empty stomach. Distribute your ounces throughout the day and take them one hour before meals.
Treating a variety of gastrointestinal ailments with wheatgrass has been advocated for over thirty years. It was only recently that a study was actually carried out. In a randomized placebo-controlled study carried out in Israel, some of the participants in the study were given 100cc of wheatgrass juice while others a placebo on a daily basis for one month. The patients treated with wheatgrass juice registered a significant reduction in the chronic inflammation disease of the large intestine called ulcerative colitis.
Several patients in a thalassemia unit started to drink wheatgrass juice to see the effects on transfusion needs after hearing about it benefits. The positive reports lead to further evaluations of the drink on beta thalassemia dependent patients. The wheatgrass was cultivated at home in kitchen gardens and the patients drank 100 ml daily. Each patient was his own control. The results were recorded and compared to those of the preceding year. The variables observed were the time between transfusions, haemoglobin before transfusion, quantity of blood transfused and the patient’s weight. It was found that the blood transfusion needs declined in patients drinking the juice.
According to data, wheatgrass juice might prevent myelotoxicity when used in conjunction with chemotherapy. In the controlled study sixty breast carcinoma patients on chemotherapy were given 60 cc of wheatgrass juice during the first three chemotherapy cycles, while those in control group only got normal supportive therapy. The wheatgrass juice was found to be beneficial.